Game Preview: Houston Roughnecks at Memphis Showboats, Sunday 2 June, 2024

  • Houston Roughnecks (1-8) at Memphis Showboats (1-8)
  • Saturday June 2, 2024 at 6:00 PM CT (7:00 PM ET)
  • Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, Memphis, TN
  • Tickets: Ticketmaster and Stubhub
  • Network: FOX (Streaming)
  • Announcers: Kevin Kugler (Play-By-Play), Joel Klatt (Booth Analyst), Jake Butt (Sideline Reporter)
  • Odds: Houston -2, O/U 44.5 (DraftKings)

In a battle of two last-place teams, the Houston Roughnecks are visiting the Memphis Showboats for their final games of the 2024 UFL season. The two previously met at Rice Stadium in Houston during Week 1, where Memphis managed to secure the victory in a close 18-12 game.

Back in 2022, the Pittsburgh Maulers and Michigan Panthers entered the final week of the USFL season with identical 1-8 records. The USFL determined that the winner of that game would receive the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft. With the same scenario unfolding this year in the United Football League’s inaugural season, UFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Daryl Johnston announced Tuesday that this week’s game between the Showboats and Roughnecks would have the same stipulation, but with a twist. Not only will the winner of this game get the overall No. 1 pick, but the victorious squad in this game will get the first pick in every round of the draft.

What do we know?

The Roughnecks hosted the Michigan Panthers in Week 9 and lost 26-22 in a relatively close game. QB Nolan Henderson finished with season-highs of 150 passing yards and 67 rushing yards. WR Justin Hall recorded a season-high two receiving touchdowns and led the team with 109 yards. LB D’Juan Hines snagged his first interception of the season, and FS Markel Roby recorded his second interception of the season.

Houston Roughnecks RB Mark Thompson can’t seem to stay out of the end zone lately, leading the team with five rushing touchdowns. Despite missing the first three games of the season due to injury, Thompson has scored in three of the previous four games and currently ranks in the top ten in the league in scoring (including extra points).

Roughneck WR Justin Hall has been on a tear in recent weeks. After having his best game of the season last week (six receptions, 109 yards receiving, and two touchdown receptions), the former Ball State Cardinal is second in the UFL in receiving yards and touchdown receptions.

In the past two games, Houston’s offense has performed well under the leadership of quarterback Nolan Henderson. With Henderson being more mobile, it has opened up running back Mark Thompson and wide receiver Justin Hall to find more open space.

For Memphis, their Week 9 game saw the D.C. Defenders rack up a season-high 431 yards of offense en route to a 36-21 victory over the Showboats. D.C. jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Defenders led the Showboats 30-7 early in the fourth and cruised to a 15-point victory. Jordan Ta’aamu led the way for D.C., passing for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also rushed for 38 yards and a score.

Darius Victor was a bright spot for the Showboats offense, rushing for 98 yards and a TD on just 14 carries. Victor’s 6-yard TD run late in the second quarter pulled Memphis within one score, 14-7. But D.C. answered quickly. Ta’amu drove his team 61 yards in seven plays, finding Alex Ellis with a 15-yard touchdown pass 14 seconds before halftime.

The momentum continued early in the third. Ta’amu’s 1-yard TD run pushed the D.C. lead to 30-7. Vinny Papale scored his fifth receiving touchdown of the season early in the fourth, hauling in a 14-yard strike from Josh Love.

For Memphis, there has been a merry-go-round of quarterbacks. Memphis’s original starting quarterback, Case Cookus, left the Week 4 game at St. Louis with a shoulder injury, leading to Troy Williams’ first start in Week 5. Cookus returned to the lineup in Week 6. Williams started in Week 7 but suffered a rib and hand injury. Cookus made the start in Week 8, but was relieved by Josh Love after suffering rib injuries during the contest. It was Love’s first action of the season. In Week 9, once again, Love entered the game in relief of Williams.

In this game, Memphis plans to start Josh Love at quarterback with Troy Williams in reserve. For running backs, the depth chart shows Darius Victor, Titus Swen, and Cyrus Habibi-Likio, and for receivers, we will see Daewood Davis, Lee Morris, Vinny Papale, Jonathan Adams, and Diondre Overton. For tight ends, the Showboats will field Sage Surratt, Jay Jay Wilson, and Wes Saxton.

Darius Victor is the No. 6 rusher in the UFL. He has tallied 337 yards on 96 carries with 2 touchdowns this season. This season, Victor is averaging 37.4 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry. Titus Swen has 25 carries for 75 yards this season, but he has seen a large role on special teams where he has taken over as the top kick returner for the Showboat, averaging 25.7 yards per return with a long of 38.

Offensively, these two squads rank 7th and 8th in the league, with the Roughnecks having 2226 yards of offense (7th) and the Showboats having 2100 yards (8th). Houston has 667 yards on the ground and 1559 yards in the air, while Memphis has 594 running yards and 1506 passing.

Defensively, the Showboats are last in the league, allowing 3230 yards (8th), and the Roughnecks have allowed 2551 yards (5th). Memphis has allowed 1004 rush yards and 2226 passing yards, while Houston has allowed 829 rush yards and 1722 passing yards.

What should we expect?

The Houston Roughnecks are on an upswing, while the Memphis Showboats are suffering from a bad loss to the D.C. Defenders that capped off an 8-game losing streak. You can be sure both teams want to win this game, not only for pride but also to set up a number-one draft pick prior to next year’s season.

Even oddsmakers are not sure how to take this game, giving the Houston Roughnecks a slim 2-point margin. Honestly, they should give a larger spread because the Roughnecks will probably beat the Showboats handily. If you need a good bet, go with the Roughnecks and the spread.

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